Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Tackle 'extreme Islam before it's too late', conservatives warn

AUSTRALIA risks becoming a nation of "ethnic enclaves" that unknowingly buys livestock slaughtered "in the name of Allah", senior Liberal MPs have warned.

Opening up a new political faultline, former immigration minister Kevin Andrews lashed out at political leaders who failed to speak out on the rise of extreme Islam, claiming the silence contributes to the rise of One Nation-type movements.

Another Liberal frontbencher, Mitch Fifield, warned of the danger of "parallel societies" developing as has occurred in Europe where hardline Muslim groups preached sharia law rather than Western values.

Amid a robust debate in Europe over failed "state multiculturalism", Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi warned Australia must avoid the mistakes of nations that allowed religious fanatics to prosper "before it is too late".

The Government and the Greens dismissed the fears, saying the nation should focus on the "positive" aspects of its diverse ethnic heritage.

"There is a risk (of enclaves) in Australia," Mr Andrews told the Herald Sun. "What actually concerns me the most is that we can't have a discussion about it."

Senator Bernardi warned of a growing "cultural divide" in Australia as hardline followers of Islam turned their backs on mainstream values.

He cited the advent of Muslim-only toilets at a Melbourne university and the halal method of meat slaughter as cultural practices that must be opposed. "I, for one, don't want to eat meat butchered in the name of an ideology that is mired in sixth century brutality and is anathema to my own values," he said.

Senator Fifield, the Coalition's spokesman on disability, said he agreed with former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett that Australians needed to guard against rising ethnic hatred. "Australians certainly revel in diversity and embrace different cultures but they expect everyone to integrate and sign up to mainstream values," he said.

But Labor's parliamentary secretary on immigration, Kate Lundy, dismissed these concerns. "The Australian community is uniquely diverse and we have a proud record of successfully leveraging the benefits of migration," she said.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young called on MPs to focus on positive aspects of our ethnic mix.


"Stick a pin in a map" government planning

It's only taxpayers' money! Super clinic sites chosen without any study of need for them

LABOR faces fresh charges of pork-barrelling after conceding it decided to establish 28 taxpayer-funded GP super clinics without assessing existing medical services in the chosen locations.

In an admission that lends weight to opposition claims that the $650 million scheme has been used to benefit marginal seats, federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has revealed her department did not do any research on GP services before she chose the sites.

Her concession yesterday sparked opposition outrage and came as the Australian Medical Association's Queensland branch revealed Ms Roxon's proposal for two GP super clinics on the Gold and Sunshine coasts would serve areas that already had high levels of doctors per head of population.

Tony Abbott continued his attack on the health rollout, announcing plans to redirect $10m from the super-clinic program to flood relief for Queensland to avoid the need for a $1.8 billion flood levy.

The continuing controversy over super clinics came as senior Labor ministers backed Julia Gillard's flexibility over a new public hospital funding deal with the states ahead of Monday's meeting of the Council of Australian Governments in Canberra.

Several MPs and ministers told The Australian that the Prime Minister was right to leave open the possibility of significant change to a health deal brokered with the states last year by Kevin Rudd to break through opposition by non-Labor states. They said Ms Gillard's declaration on Monday that her key aim was improvements to patient care indicated a flexibility that should assure voters she was focused on results, not processes.

Ms Roxon yesterday strongly defended Mr Rudd's deal and warned that any backflip on health reform at COAG would be dangerous and "put the entire federation at risk".

During the 2007 election campaign, Mr Rudd proposed to spend $280m building super clinics to provide bulk-billed GP services as well as a range of other services, including diagnostics, specialist suites and pharmacies.

As the projects were rolled out, the opposition complained that the clinics were being placed in marginal electorates for Labor's political convenience.

And GPs practising near some of the clinics complained they were losing business to super clinics and could not compete because of the taxpayer subsidies.

A second round of GP super clinics costing $370m were promised in last year's election.

In a response to a question on notice from opposition primary healthcare spokesman Andrew Southcott, Ms Roxon revealed: "The Department of Health and Ageing did not undertake an analysis of existing primary healthcare providers."

Dr Southcott, a doctor, seized on the response as proof the program was "more about the political health of Labor candidates in a tight election" than the real health needs of local communities.

"The location of the GP super clinics was no doubt selected in consultation with the national secretary of the ALP rather than the secretary of the Health Department," Dr Southcott said.

Queensland Australian Medical Association president Gino Pecoraro said the Sunshine Coast had one GP for every 865 people, the highest ratio in Queensland, while the Gold Coast had one GP for every 1011 people, the state's third-highest ratio.

"Tully Hospital has lost its roof in Cyclone Yasi and Ipswich and Toowoomba has damaged health services," Dr Pecoraro said. "Here's $22m quarantined for GP infrastructure on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Why not use it where it's needed?"

Ms Roxon defended the clinics yesterday, using a speech to declare the program a success. "The program is already making a huge difference in many communities where it has been difficult to get doctors, and/or where there is high population growth," she told the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance in Canberra

"The opposition should be ashamed for wanting to rip apart this program, when it is delivering much-needed health infrastructure to communities around the country," Ms Roxon later told The Australian.

The minister said GP super clinics were being built in areas of need or where they could help relieve pressure on local hospitals.

The Sunshine Coast community faced a range of health pressures, including rapid population growth and a high proportion of children and elderly people.

The Gold Coast GP super clinic would help to meet the health needs of a rapidly growing population, high proportion of people with chronic disease, high proportion of Aborigines, children and the aged, and a hospital under pressure, she said.

Government sources said yesterday Ms Gillard wanted to deliver the key proposed outcomes of the Rudd reform package and was prepared to make concessions to secure agreement.


Gillard's paler shade of Green

THE Gillard government's $1.5 billion slashing of green schemes is a turning point in Labor's political maturity; it signals a re-think about green programs, a scepticism about "feel good" environmental gestures and a tougher line on industry protection disguised as clean energy.

The spending cuts send several messages: Labor is serious about bringing a new realism to its green programs; Gillard is betting the house on the main game of getting a carbon price and beating Tony Abbott on this front; as PM Gillard has less interest than Kevin Rudd in industry intervention policy; and the savings signal a leadership team ready to make more cuts to underwrite the 2012-13 budget surplus goal. Gillard was blunt: "Some of these [green] policies are less efficient than a carbon price and will no longer be necessary." Yes, that means a new direction.

The biggest saving is $429 million across the forward estimates from killing the Cleaner Car Rebate Scheme, known as cash for clunkers. To call this scheme a shocker is too polite. Announced last July, Gillard pledged a $2000 rebate for owners of pre-1995 cars who purchased a new, low-emission, fuel-efficient vehicle, hoping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one million tonnes.

In short, spending more than $400m to reduce emissions by one million tonnes would cost taxpayers more than $400 a tonne, about 40 times the initially proposed carbon price a tonne under Labor's emission trading scheme. It was an idea so bad it could not survive, yet testimony to what politicians will do under green mania. Gillard is sensible to put it behind her.

The next main green saving is $234m across the forward estimates and $401m over the program life from winding up the Green Car Innovation Fund. This was Rudd's baby and his dream. It was part of his new car plan with Rudd telling parliament on World Environment Day, 2008: "We do not just want a green car; we want a green car industry."

For Rudd, it began as a $500m fusion to retain automotive industry jobs and meet the climate change challenge. The industry was to match the government's contribution on a three-to-one dollar basis. Climate change action would become a core task for manufacturing industry. In the end it was a huge $1.3bn fund bid up by Rudd and administered by Industry Minister Kim Carr.

The industry entered into commitments but would have preferred more of the funds as direct support rather than under the "green car" banner.

Gillard's winding up of the fund defies both the car industry and the trade unions. It will be cheered in the Treasury and Productivity Commission. In August 2008 Productivity Commission chairman, Gary Banks, attacked Rudd's initiative, in effect, as a fraud. He said the fund "would be unlikely to yield significant innovation or greenhouse benefits if it were all allocated on a similar basis to the first $35 million instalment."

This was a reference to Rudd's Tokyo announcement to subsidise Toyota on the hybrid Camry out of Altona in Melbourne. Critically, Banks said an effective ETS should render "many pre-existing emission-reduction schemes redundant." Guess what? Gillard has started to accept this argument.

The car industry chiefs from Toyota, Holden and Ford wrote to Gillard on Monday evening accusing Labor of broken commitments. But Labor's power centre has moved from Rudd to Gillard. Have no doubt, this reflects a sharp Gillard-Rudd difference on both industry and climate change that could become more significant down the track. Head of the Chamber of Automotive Industries, Andrew McKellar, says abolition of the fund is an "unwelcome surprise" and accuses public servants of misleading their ministers on the issue. But the mood within cabinet at this decision was for a discipline not apparent during the Rudd era.

The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, another ambitious Rudd idea, loses $55m over the forward estimates but stays alive with strong ongoing funds. Another theme behind the savings is practicality, witness $500m saved across the forward estimates (though much of this is available later) by cutting back on support for large solar projects and carbon capture and storage projects.

The conclusion is manifest: the value here is not yet available. One cabinet minister said: "What's more important: helping rebuild after the floods or backing a solar hot water rebate?" Such decisions reflect the "cleaning up" strategy already being implemented by Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and his parliamentary secretary, Mark Dreyfus.

Last April Combet announced the termination of the $2.4bn home insulation scheme debacle. Under Combet and Dreyfus both the green loans and green start schemes (offering energy assessments to households) are terminated at a saving of $129m. This followed the Auditor-General's September 2010 report that the green start program could not be implemented without acceptable control of risks.

In short, the failure of multiple green schemes since Labor came to power in 2007 constitutes a stunning story of public administration and policy failure.

Senior ministers say the principles guiding future green policy must be the allocative efficiency of markets, attention to equity and proper service delivery. But the big play is pricing carbon. No final decisions are taken but Combet's December 17 speech gave the critical clues. Labor is looking at a fixed carbon price in the short-term evolving into an ETS with a market price down the track with more ambitious targets decided not at the start but only at this transition point.


NBN to cost 24 times South Korea's faster network, says research body

The Labor party's NBN is like some sort of vampire that nothing can kill

THE National Broadband Network will cost taxpayers 24 times as much as South Korea's but deliver just one tenth the speed, according to one of the world's most respected economic research organisations.

A paper released by the Economist Intelligence Unit today criticises Labor's broadband network on a range of fronts. The report assesses the plans of 40 countries to enable high speed broadband development, assessing the target speeds, rollout time frame, cost and regulatory provisions to deliver a final ranking.

The research body marks Australia down in its government broadband index because of "the huge cost to the public sector" of the NBN. It also loses points due to limited private-sector involvement, high government intervention and the exclusion of state and municipal authorities from the plan.

The report highlights the disparity between the cost of the network - estimated at 7.6 per cent of annual government revenue - and the cost of the South Korean network, which is estimated at less than one per cent.

The report does score the NBN highly for having a target speed of 100 megabits per second, but it says Sweden, Finland, Estonia and France have all set similar targets with much lower costs.

Opposition Communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull seized on the study's findings.

"Now the Economist Intelligence Unit joins the long list of expert observers, both international and local, who are utterly dismayed by the reckless spending of the Gillard Government on the NBN," Mr Turnbull said. "The study confirms, yet again, that this NBN project should be the subject of a rigorous cost-benefit analysis by the Productivity Commission."

Australia scores 3.4 out of five on the index, trailing South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, France, Spain and Denmark, but it ranks the NBN ahead of broadband plans in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Copt this!

By Michael Danby

On New Years Eve this year, Egypt’s Christians celebrated the coming of the New Year. As they began to leave the Saints Church in East Alexandria, Cairo, a large explosion went off. 22 men, women and children were killed, and 98 people severely injuring, a Jihadist suicide bomb ripped through the Alexandria’s premier Coptic Church

The Copts represents 10% of the 80 million people in Egypt, and are the largest Christian community remaining in the Middle East. They are a link to ancient Egypt, as their Coptic language is the last remnant of the language of the hieroglyphs. Their culture and traditions pre-date Islam. The attack was not isolated, and came after months of escalating violence against the Copts in Egypt.

Many of the victims of this atrocity attack have relatives here in Australia, where the Coptic Community is 80,000 strong. Violence against the Copts in the Middle East has had consequences here too. On Coptic Christmas (7th January) four churches in Sydney were listed amongst 64 worldwide as targets by Al Qaeda.

Like many Australian Jewish religious sites, they too were forced into intensive private and government security lockdown

The attack on the Coptic Church in Egypt, and the subsequent protests that followed the bombings were some of the first public signs that the Mubarak regime was losing control. This of course all predates the current upsurge against Mubarak.

No amount of Grecian 2000 hair dye can hide the fact that Egypt’s tyrant, Hosni Mubarak, is in his mid 80’s. Prior to the demonstrations against Mubarak, I argued in News Ltd online publication The Punch, that in the campaign against the Copts, coupled with the blatantly rigged parliamentary elections, meant the end of Hosni Mubarak’s scheme to install his son Gamal, laughably known as ‘Gary’, will not happen. Game over with that one.

Egypt’s security chief, Omar Solmain, now installed as Vice president may be able to perpetuate the relatively secularist Egyptian regime. It is possible that the army backed, pro-Western regime will collapse. Despite the identical parrot calls of Fairfax’s McGeough, Koutsoukis and Fisk, there is much doubt about whether the Muslim Brotherhood or even an ostensible secularist like Mohamed El Baredei would run Egypt any better.

ASPI’s Carl Ungerer was right to point out that an election that brings the brotherhood to power may be the last election Egypt has.

The dramatic attacks on the Coptic Christians in Egypt, had an immediate effect in Australia involving the Al Qaeda listing of four local Coptic churches. Surprisingly, back around New Year, none of our Australian, Jerusalem-based reporters ventured to Alexandria or Egypt over that period. They are all in Cairo now, but this news lapse wasn’t just an Australian phenomena. Jeffrey Goldberg writing in the Atlantic Monthly, noted what he thought was ”the lackadaisical coverage of the most important story coming out of the Middle East now.” It’s easier to report from the comfort of Jerusalem’s coffee shops or sound off about the dreadful Israeli’s with Palestine confederates at the cosy American Colony hotel.

Goldberg was right to see the wider murderous anti-Christian campaign in Egypt and Iraq, indeed as a phenomenon throughout the Middle East. Just last October, Al Qaeda boasted of its slaughter in a Baghdad church. There Jihadists murdered 58 men, women and children in church, including priests praying at the altar; 80% of Iraqi Christians have fled the country targeted particularly by Al Qaeda of Iraq.

Christians are under siege from Islamist in the Palestinian territories. Only in Lebanon where the disgraceful Christian warlord General Aoun is in alliance with Hezbollah is there a brief reprieve for Nasrerllah’s benighted Christian collaborator . With his assistance, Iran via Hezbollah been able to install their proxy, Najib Mikati, as Prime Minister of Lebanon.

Counter intuitively to the perverse BBC/Guardian/Fairfax worldview about the Middle East, only Israel has seen the number of Christians increase from 34,000 in 1948 to 151,700 (according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics Report of 2010). Where is World Vision, Care or the Uniting Church, off on the same tangent with Israel-obsessed radicals of the Middle East Council of Christians?

In contrast, Pope Benedict insisted that: “Government’s do more to protect religious minorities.” Mubarak’s maladroit response was to withdraw the Egyptian Ambassador to the Vatican. Pope Benedict argued “Words are not enough in confronting religious intolerance, there must be a concrete and constant effort by the world’s nations”. US President Obama and French President Sarkozy also specifically denounced the anti-Coptic violence. There were questions about whether Australia had spoken out loudly enough. Although a delegation of senior Labor politicians led by Federal Minister Martin Ferguson, in which I participated, had a very useful meeting with the Coptic Bishop and most of Melbourne’Coptic Ministers.

Waheed Ra'fat, one of the managing editors of Mubarak’s NDP’s Al-Watani Al-Yom publication, with the usual diversionary and delusional , reacted to the attack on the Copts as follows.

"Mossad is the accused because it stands to benefit most from distracting Egypt's attention from what is going to happen in South Sudan on January 9]. .. The Mossad has a strategy of instigating fitna [civil war, disagreement and division within Islam.

Just as local Egyptian writer Mona Eltahawy writes: “Meanwhile, the uprisings are curing the Arab world of its obsession with Israel. Successive Arab dictators have tried to keep discontent at bay by distracting people with the Israeli-Arab Conflict.”

She obviously had in mind the Governor of Sinai who said Egyptian officials believed that a fatal shark attack in one of their resorts could have been a “plot” by the Mossad. And remember Saudi authorities arrested “a Zionist vulture” last month, in reality a bird tagged in a Haifa University bird migration experiment.

Peter Day, writing in the Australian Spectator, noted the violence against Egypt’s Christians meant its fate was on the line.

“Hani Shukrallah, an independent journalist and former editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram, writes in the paper that an Egypt free of its ancient Christian Coptic minority is for the first time not beyond his imagining. He hopes to be dead before that: ‘This will be an Egypt which I do not recognise and to which I have no desire to belong’.”

Sadly we need to be aware that the Middle East faces something wider even then the fate of Egypt. It is another aspect of Al Qaeda Jihadist war- the systematic attempt to drive Christianity out of the Middle East. This organised attack on Middle East Christians is but a part of the Salafist war waged against the world. It is fought by their many satellites and franchises from the Algerian “Salafist front of the Combat and Call”, to “Jemah Islamiya” in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Home grown Jihadists are what we in Australia have to fear the most. Fortunately for Australia, our security agencies and laws have so far foiled all attempts of terror attacks on mainland Australia. Even if all Jewish and Coptic sites in Australia have to remain highly guarded, it may be necessary so Australia continues to avoid mass causality attacks.


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